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'How sick does my child have to be?' - Campaign calls for medical cards for all seriously ill children

Those launching the campaign said they will maintain a presence outside Government Buildings until legislation is changed.

Image: child in hospital via Shutterstock

A CAMPAIGN IS being launched today, calling for the government to change legislation to automatically entitle any child with a serious illness to a full medical card.

Stories have emerged recently of a number of children across the country with serious illnesses or congenital conditions who have either lost their cards or been frequently asked to renew them and then left waiting for months for approval.

Peter Fitzpatrick, whose niece Louise Shortall was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2012, is spearheading the campaign, along with the eight-year-old girl’s father, Kevin.

The girl’s parents had to apply four different times for temporary cards in the 19 months it took to get approval from the HSE. During that time, Fitzpatrick said documents were lost and at one stage the family was issued with ten ‘GP only’ cards for Louise, despite the fact that she was seeing a consultant at Crumlin hospital and not her GP.

“Tracy, her mother, went to the pharmacy with one of the temporary medical cards and was told that wasn’t valid,” Fitzpatrick said. “She burst into tears – she needed the medication for her daughter and she was given no prior notice that the card was going to be cancelled because they were issuing these GP only cards.”

One time they called and asked to speak to Louise personally – Louise is eight and she has Leukemia so she wasn’t really in a position to talk. There’s so little understanding of what the family is going through or the illness itself.

Fitzpatrick said he decided to try to raise awareness of the problem because he feels parents dealing with it don’t have a voice or time to raise awareness of the issue.

“Parents have nothing left after dealing with the emotional stress at home and they’ll often get the card in the end but they have to go through this fight,” he said. “We’ve had hundreds of emails from parents saying they’re so happy we’re doing this because they don’t have the time to leave their child and get involved.”

The Our Children’s Health campaign, which will be launched this afternoon, calls for automatic and full eligibility for health services should a child be diagnosed with a serious illness or congenital condition and a change in the Health Act of 1970 to legally underpin this. It is also calling for a fundamental re-evaluation of health policy in Ireland so that full eligibility is granted on the basis of medical need and not financial means.

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“It’s when you’re marginally over the means that the HSE’s discretion kicks in and they also take into account your medical and social circumstances,” Fitzpatrick said. “You’re left wondering “how sick does my child have to be before you use your discretion and say we are a deserving case?”".

A website and online petition will be launched today with a pledge by organisers to maintain a presence outside Government Buildings every morning the Dáil is in session, indefinitely.

Read: ‘They took the medical card from our little girl. She has Cerebral Palsy and may never walk’>

Read: Mother was asked by the HSE if her son ‘still had Down syndrome’>

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